Last year, I had heard a bunch of people talking up Lucha Underground. Everyone seemed to have good things to say and their descriptions made it sound like it was going to be right up my alley. The first episode I finally tuned in for was Aztec Warfare, their version of the Royal Rumble. I was blown away by what I saw that night and it hooked me on the show for good.

This year, they’ve done it again.

Aztec Warfare takes the Royal Rumble’s timed-entrance conceit and exchanges over-the-top eliminations for pinfalls and submissions. Because this is a lucha libre promotion, you’ve got a lot of guys who can do spectacular dives to the outside. A traditional battle royal would take this away from them, whereas Aztec Warfare allows them to shine.

We were kicked off by some musicians in what I presume to be traditional Aztecan garb. They played drums and got the crowd going. It made the show feel like a big deal, which it definitely is.

The theme this year has been that the Temple is darker than ever. Matt Striker played up previously that this year’s Aztec Warfare would be even more violent than before. While I don’t know as though I’d call tonight’s show dark or violent, it certainly was chaotic and felt like anything could happen and anyone could win.

Case in point, when Drago threw Jack Evans down the Temple’s stairs. You may have missed this, because it happened in the background. While The Mack and Cage squared off in the ring, just behind them you can see Jack Evans fall down the stairs and then a couple seconds later Drago walking down after him. On one hand, I feel bad for Evans, as that bump looked awful to take and everyone’s attention at home was fixed on Cage and The Mack. On the other, the fact that you had to really be looking to notice it made the match feel more riotous.

Overall, there were a large number of spots that stood out. Evans and Drago went after each other and had several big moments of their own. Evans landed on his feet after Drago moved out of the way of his cartwheel plancha (or Space Flying Tiger Drop if ya nasty). Later, Drago hit Evans with a powerbomb on the wood bleachers, which looked brutal.

King Cuerno’s “Arrow from the Depths of Hell” on Fenix looked great, as the camera was placed perfectly to capture the impact. Prince Puma hit an especially beautiful shooting star press to the outside. Johnny Mundo threw Cage through the office window, then later smashed a cinder block over his head. Dragon Azteca Jr. got a little bit of shine with a big hurricanrana from ring onto The Mack on the floor and a big somersault plancha over the turnbuckle on Mack again. There were big moves and big events that made the match fly by.

We got three in-ring debuts tonight, as well. Rey Mysterio Jr. debuted at number 2 in the match to a huge reaction. He eliminated 4 men from the match and was treated like a big deal. He seemed to be in great shape and looked good running through his usual spots. His protégé, Dragon Azteca Jr., also debuted and showed a little promise with the dives mentioned above.

Last, but definitely not least, we got the debut of “The Monster Matanza Cueto”. For a year now, we’ve had the opportunity to daydream in our minds what Matanza might be like. I had envisioned him as a typical monster heel, maybe something like Kane in his prime. Certainly a big guy coming equipped with big guy offense. What we got, instead, was a little Taz and a little Cage with a lot of serial killer mixed in.

Based on his repertoire in the ring, Matanza feels a bit like someone going through the move list in a video game’s Create-A-Wrestler feature and giving their guy all the coolest looking ones they come across. He was tossing people around and slamming them with what seemed like little effort. Then, he hit a standing shooting star press. What can’t this guy do?

By having him run roughshod through the last 9 guys, including Prince Puma, Fenix, and Rey Mysterio Jr., they succeeded in having him come across like some unstoppable monster. This is especially good because the resident monster heel, Mil Muertes, looked incredibly vulnerable as Pentagon Jr. snuck through the crowd (literally, it looked like he was walking on his toes) and took him out with a chair.

The match was well-booked, with quite a few directions they can go with rivalries old and new. Drago and Jack Evans, The Mack and The Moth, and Cage and Mundo all look to still have unfinished business. Pentagon Jr. looks to have his sights set directly on Mil Muertes and Catrina even without the title in play. Presumably, Vampiro will play some role in this as well, as Catrina likely didn’t slap him for nothing. Dario’s back to reclaim his Temple and his monster brother looks like an unstoppable champion. Catrina now needs to pick up the pieces and figure out her next move. What will Dario have in store for Rey Mysterio and Dragon Azteca Jr.? Will Joey Ryan and Cortez Castro begin to make their move on the Cuetos?

All in all, it was a really fun match that flew by. Everything made sense and everyone acted like real people. If I wanted to nitpick, I’m sure there are some flaws here (the Dollar Store lightning effect on Catrina’s magic rock comes to mind immediately), but it’s hard to do anything but praise this. This match, which takes up basically the entire episode, is a must watch for all wrestling fans.

Random Thoughts

  • Anyone else notice the little kid playing drums with the Aztecs? Shouldn’t they stay away from the Temple? Or are little Aztec kids just that tough?
  • Famous B with Brenda sitting ringside scouting talent was a great plus, as his reactions to the big moves were great.
  • If you’re an undercover cop, brandishing your handcuffs and using them in a way that draws the most attention to them possible is probably not a great move.
  • King Cuerno casually standing on Rey Mysterio Jr. outside the ring was great.
  • I would SWEAR Aerostar’s music was the original WWF Raw theme.
  • I hope they don’t do the WWE thing and always call Matanza, “The Monster Matanza Cueto”.
  • Perfectly cromulent usage of the Springfield town motto from Striker.

Order of Entry

  1. Fenix
  2. Rey Mysterio Jr.
  3. King Cuerno
  4. Argenis
  5. Johnny Mundo
  6. Joey Ryan
  7. Prince Puma
  8. Jack Evans
  9. Taya
  10. Cage
  11. Mascarita Sagrada
  12. Marty the Moth
  13. Drago
  14. The Mack
  15. Chavo Guerrero Jr.
  16. PJ Black
  17. Aerostar
  18. Dragon Azteca Jr.
  19. Texano
  20. Mil Muertes
  21. The Monster Matanza Cueto

Order of Elimination

  1. Argenis (by Rey Mysterio)
  2. King Cuerno (by Rey Mysterio)
  3. Johnny Mundo (by Prince Puma)
  4. Marty the Moth (by Rey Mysterio and Mascarita Sagrada)
  5. Mascarita Sagrada (by Chavo Guerrero)
  6. Cage (by Taya)
  7. Taya (by Fenix)
  8. Drago (by PJ Black)
  9. Jack Evans (by Aerostar)
  10. PJ Black (by Texano)
  11. Mil Muertes (by Rey Mysterio and Prince Puma)
  12. Fenix (by Matanza)
  13. Mack (by Matanza)
  14. Aerostar (by Matanza)
  15. Texano (by Matanza)
  16. Joey Ryan (by Matanza)
  17. Dragon Azteca Jr. (by Matanza)
  18. Chavo Guerrero Jr. (by Matanza)
  19. Prince Puma (by Matanza)
  20. Rey Mysterio Jr. (by Matanza)